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Sunday, November 6, 2011

It has more than a year since Jim Touchton came to the Colquitt County Arts Center to talk about a possible art exhibition of his paintings. Jim did not arrive with even one painting under his arm to show us what an established artist he is. Generally an artist will travel with a portfolio and biographical information as a form of introduction. Jim, however, did not need such things once he started telling the story of his artistic journey. He had my immediate attention when he mentioned his early years of traveling and working with Elaine de Kooning (March 12, 1918 – February 1, 1989.) Elaine was an Abstract Expressionist and the wife of Willem de Kooning (April 24, 1904 – March 19, 1989) who was one of the most influential artists in the Abstract Expressionism movement in the middle of the last century. To give you an idea of why I way so taken by Jim’s history you need to know that my favorite portrait of John F. Kennedy painted in 1963 is by Elaine de Kooning. She was asked by Jackie to create her husband’s likeness to hang in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. I can see Elaine’s influence on Jim’s painting in this portrait of President Kennedy. Elaine’s use of color to convey light and movement relates to many of the paintings that Jim creates, in my opinion. Willem de Kooning was a Dutch American artist who was born in the Netherlands. He was a part of a group of artists that came to be known as the “New York School.” Other painters in this group included such great artists as Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann and Robert Motherwell. I viewed paintings by all of these artists two weeks ago at the Institute of Art in Chicago. It was a great day to say the least. So when Jim told me that he worked with Elaine and he spent time in the presence of her husband Willem, who is one of my favorite artists to have every lived, I was hooked. I needed to know more about Jim and his artwork that had been influenced by American Art Royalty. Jim has spent time with and painted with artists that changed the way the world sees art today. Jim was born in Hahira, GA and didn’t even start taking art classes until his junior year at Valdosta State University were he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He then went on to learn from one of Georgia’s greatest and most influential artists, Lamar Dodd. Jim received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Georgia in Athens. He continued his studies at the New York Studio School in Paris, France. He also studied in Cortona and Florence Italy. For more than thirty years Jim lived in New York City and the East Hamptons were he continued to paint and be surrounded by great art and artists. His paintings are included in numerous prominent public, corporate and private collections. He is represented by prestigious galleries such as the Fischbach Gallery in New York City and the Parker Art Gallery in Sea Island, Georgia. The title of Jim Touchton’s exhibition is “Sense of Place: Intimacy and Immediacy,” and it be displayed in the Vereen Gallery from November 17th, 2011 through February 24th, 2012. Please do not miss this opportunity to see paintings that are rooted in art history. I will leave you with this statement by Elaine de Kooning. “A painting to me is primarily a verb, not a noun, an event first and only secondarily an image.” What a woman!